In the U.S., there are federal minimum age restrictions on who can buy a gun. The law is known as the Gun Control Act of 1968, allowing the sale of long guns to anyone 18 or older and handguns to those 21 or older.
Additionally, licensed gun dealers must run background checks on anyone buying a gun or ammunition. However, unlicensed people can sell handguns and ammunition to anyone under 18. Unlicensed persons include those who sell firearms at gun shows or online.
States have different adaptions of these laws, some making it easier to obtain a handgun and others more complex.
Therefore, can you have a handgun in your car at 18? Here’s a guide for young drivers.
Legal Age for Carrying Handguns: Explained
The low minimum age for buying handguns set by federal law is as follows:
When buying a handgun from a licensed firearm dealer, the minimum age is 21, but this goes down to 18 when buying from an unlicensed dealer. Giffords Law Center, an advocacy group against gun violence, points out that studies show young people have an increased risk of violent behaviors, both to themselves and others, meaning that stricter laws are needed to curb the problem.
Indeed, some states have enforced stricter laws for purchases and possessions age of handguns from unlicensed firearms dealers.
States With Minimum Age Requirements for Hand Gun Purchases and Possession
Despite the federal law prohibiting the sale of handguns to anyone under 21 by licensed dealers, unlicensed dealers can sell them to someone under 18. However, many states have imposed a minimum age to purchase handguns and long guns from licensed and unlicensed dealers.
These states include Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Washington, and the District of Columbia.
States With Younger Limits for Hand Gun Purchases and Possession
Some states have a younger limit than the federal limit for purchasing a handgun. These include Alabama, Arizona, Indiana, and Kentucky. Louisiana has lowered the limit for possession to 17 and Alaska to 16.
Some states have no age limit for handgun possession. These are Texas, Wyoming, Ohio, New Hampshire, Montana and Maine.
Carrying Handguns in Vehicles: Age Restrictions
In some states, you need a permit to carry handguns. Other states require permits for concealed carry, while others require permits for both open and concealed carry. Some states prohibit open carry, but they vary on whether gun owners need a license for concealed carry. Gun owners must know their state’s firearm laws to ensure they know if they can carry a concealed or open handgun in their vehicle.
The states that prohibit open carry of guns and require a permit for concealed carry are California, New York, New Jersey, Illinois, and Washington D.C. Florida fitted into this category until recently but has since passed a law for concealed carrying of a weapon without a permit while still outlawing open carry.
In most states requiring a concealed carry permit, it’s legal for someone to carry a concealed weapon on them or in their vehicle.
However, if traveling between states, gun owners must also know the gun-related laws of the place they plan to visit and the states they must travel through to get there.
If it’s illegal to possess a handgun in your vehicle at 18 in your state or another state you are traveling through or visiting, then you are subject to the state’s laws.
However, the Firearm Owners Protection Act allows you to travel through a state without stopping with a handgun if you are allowed to possess one in the state you reside in and the state of your destination.
Understanding Handgun Possession in Cars at 18
The Firearm Owners Protection Act 18 U.S.C. § 926A anticipates state regulations and allows handgun transportation in a vehicle between states as long as you meet some conditions.
U.S. LawShield provides the following information about the Act:
- A person must not otherwise be prohibited from possessing a handgun, and its transport must be for lawful purposes only. Prohibited persons include anyone convicted of a felony carrying a prison sentence of at least one year, except for any sentencing based on business practice regulations. Other prohibited persons are fugitives from justice, someone with a mental disability, unlawful users of controlled substances, and anyone with a dishonorable discharge from the military. People with court orders against them for harassing someone and those convicted of domestic violence also make the list of prohibited persons.
- They can only make brief stops during the trip for gasoline or food when transporting a handgun, as long as they can lawfully possess it in their state and the state of their final destination.
- The firearm must have no ammunition in it.
- The firearm and ammunition must be out of reach and not readily accessible from the car’s passenger compartment.
- If the vehicle does not have a separate compartment, then the weapon and its ammunition must be placed in a locked container but not in the console or glove compartment of the vehicle.
- You can use the Safe Passage provision of the law as your defense if an officer arrests you for traveling through a state with an illegal weapon, as long as you follow the above rules.
Young Adults and Handgun Carrying in Vehicles
When carrying a handgun in a vehicle as a young adult, you must ensure that you meet all the laws of your state for gun transportation. These include the age limit, whether you can carry a firearm without a permit, and whether it must be concealed.
Securing your firearm is essential to prevent it from falling into unauthorized hands.
Therefore, it’s best always to ensure that when you leave a firearm in your vehicle, it is locked and out of sight. The safest place is in the trunk since most smash-and-grabs are for visible stuff left on seats or for things left in the cubby hole or consoles.
Handgun Laws: Minimum Age for Carrying in Cars
The minimum age for carrying a handgun in a car varies according to the handgun laws of each state.
For example, if you are over 18 in California and are not prohibited from possessing a weapon, you may transport your gun in your vehicle for lawful purposes only. It must have no ammunition and be stored in a locked container or your car’s trunk. The firearm must also be concealed and locked in a container when carrying it to or from the vehicle.
However, in Arizona, a person must be 21 or over to carry a concealed loaded weapon inside their car. If you are between 18 and 20, you can take a gun in a vehicle as long as it’s in a case, holster, trunk, or glove compartment. You cannot carry an unholstered weapon underneath your car seat. Furthermore, you can bring a loaded handgun on your person while in your car as long as it’s visible and in a holster.
These are the types of variations that make it very important to familiarize yourself with the weapons and firearm laws in your state.
Age 18 and Handgun Possession in Your Vehicle
According to federal law, the minimum age to purchase a handgun in the U.S. is 21. However, these laws do change between states. You must also know the local regulations concerning handgun possession in your vehicle. Even if you can openly carry a firearm in your state, some areas may still impose local restrictions that override the state’s law.
In states with a concealed carry permit, you must primarily hide your weapon in your vehicle. However, you may ask, can you have a handgun in your car at 18 without a concealed carry permit? The answer depends on the relative state laws:
- In Montana, the laws covering concealed weapons allow everyone who can legally possess a firearm to carry a hidden weapon without requiring a permit. There is no law prohibiting carrying a handgun in a vehicle.
- In Florida, you need a permit for concealed weapon carrying. However, if securely encased and not loaded, you can have a handgun in your vehicle without a license.
- California has stricter rules for carrying a weapon without concealed carry permits. If you’re a resident or visitor over 18 who can legally possess a firearm, you can transport a handgun. But it must not have any ammunition and be locked in a container.
Carrying Handguns in Cars: Age Limitations
For the first time in over a decade, guns became the leading cause of death between one and 19, resulting in 4,300 deaths in 2020. Combined with gun violence, these are the types of statistics that lead to lawmakers pushing for stricter laws.
The age limitations for carrying handguns in cars vary because the rules change according to the state. Meanwhile, these rules tend to be complicated. Even though federal law prohibits the purchase of handguns from a licensed dealer to anyone under the age of 21, there are exceptions to the rule. An 18-year-old can receive the weapon as a gift or buy it from an unlicensed weapons dealer.
In some states, you can get a permit to carry a concealed weapon, including in a vehicle, at 18. Meanwhile, you must also know what applies to storing and transporting ammunition in each state.
Local regulations about the transportation of firearms in cars make things even more complicated.
Can you have a handgun in your car at 18? Not always. It depends on your state and local laws. Compliance is critical to all the applicable laws when taking your firearm into a vehicle. Therefore, stay up-to-date with the regulations in your area, any states you travel through, and your final destination when traveling with a handgun in your car.